How to Claim Hurricane Disaster Unemployment Assistance?
If you are a victim of the storm, then you should avail for Disaster Unemployment Assistance to help you through this troubled time. Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) aims at assisting individuals with unemployment benefits that have lost their jobs or are no longer working due to a major disaster in an area where a disaster assistance period is declared. This is available to those that have applied but are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits.
You are eligible for DUA if any one of the following has occurred to you because of the disaster:
- The previous job contributed to more than 50% of your total income.
- Stay, work and travel in the disaster area.
- Your office, place of employment is damaged or closed.
- Scheduled to start work which does not exist or no longer reach due to the storm.
- Self-employment or work cannot be a sustainable source of income
- Fall short of qualifying for unemployment benefits from any state
- Cannot work due to injury caused by the disaster
- You are the breadwinner of the household because of the death of the head of the household.
Additional eligibility requirements for DUA include:
- Be unemployed as a direct result of the disaster
- Be legally authorized to work in the United States
- Be able to work and available for work
- Actively search for work, unless ill or injured due to the disaster
- Submit DUA payment requests on time
- Have not refused an offer or referral to suitable work
DUA is available for people during the Disaster Assistance period which starts on the first Sunday from when the major disaster has been declared. Usually, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the DUA regulations define when the period starts and finishes. Seasonal workers are eligible for DUA if they would have been employed when the disaster had occurred.
How Do You Apply for DUA?
There are two options that eligible candidates can use to get the benefits of DUA. They can apply online at the Unemployment Benefit Services by clicking on the ‘Apply for Benefits’ option. They can also call the Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 to speak to a customer service representative. Those from Louisiana can call 225-925-7500. Those that are eligible will receive information on their weekly benefit amount, how to ask for payments and receive a copy of the Unemployment Benefits Handbook. In order to ensure that you can claim your benefits, you should complete your work search registration within 3 days of your application for the DUA. This is unless you have an intention to restart your business and if you are otherwise self-employed and looking to reopen your business. The proof of your employment which was disrupted by the disaster must be submitted within 21 days of the application. Work searches may be exempt in the disaster-hit regions in case it takes more than 12 weeks to restart the operations. Finally, you should request payment of DUA with the Payment Request sent to you and ensure that your mailing address is correct to receive your benefits.
DUA Weekly Benefit Amount
The minimum DUA weekly benefit amount is at least 50% of the state average WBA (Weekly Benefit Amount). For example, if you receive a WBA of $315, you should then be eligible for a DUA of $157. Minimum weekly benefits are used if you do not have any base period wages or enough wages to receive a minimum required benefit amount.
DUA payments may reduce if you receive any of the following:
- Benefit amount reductions would be based on working part-time and your WBA will be reduced in proportion to the number of hours worked.
- Benefits or insurance received for loss of wages due to illness or disability
- Supplemental unemployment benefits that are paid pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement
- If you receive private income protection insurance
- Workers’ Compensation or Survivors Benefits if you become the major support of the family as a result of the death of the head of the household because of the disaster
- If you receive retirement pension or annuity
- On earnings from employment or self-employment
- Receive subsidy or price support payments, crop insurance payments and farm disaster relief (Non-DUA) payments
- Avail a court order to pay child support
All 39 Texas counties that are within the presidential disaster declaration have to apply until October 31. If you file after the deadline then it may be denied unless there is a good cause. All applicants should submit their Social Security Number, check stubs and documentation to support the claim that they are working or self-employed.
How Much DUA Benefits Payments?
If you reside in these states then you can avail DUA Benefits for 26 weeks. Individual benefits cannot extend beyond the disaster period which is 6 months. If you are in these states then you can receive the following:
|Texas||$203 Minimum Weekly DUA Benefit/$493 Maximum Benefit|
|Florida||$120 Minimum Weekly DUA Benefit/$275 Maximum Benefit|
|Georgia||$142 Minimum Weekly DUA Benefit/$330 Maximum Benefit|
|Puerto Rico||$59 Minimum Weekly DUA Benefit/$133 Maximum Benefit|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||$167 Minimum Weekly DUA Benefit/$480 Maximum Benefit|
Deadlines for DUA Application
To enroll in DUA, victims of the disaster should apply within 30 days after the availability is announced. Other applications would only be accepted for a “good cause” and in no case can the DUA application be received after the disaster period ends. You are required to provide supporting documents of your employment and earnings with your Social Security Number. If you are self-employed, you should provide your tax return copies. If you are employed, documents that provide proof of employment should be furnished. You should also provide a sworn statement which includes verification forms. By failing to do so, it would result in benefit overpayment which would be collected by the state. Each state will process the DUA differently. Most states may do so via internet and telephone. But if you are affected by Hurricane Irma, you should check periodically on the state websites. Open these websites if you have applied at Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands unemployment insurance agency websites listed below.
Additional Eligibility Conditions
Do state unemployment benefits apply to agricultural workers?
Farmworkers are eligible for benefits from the state. In Florida, those agricultural employers with more than 5 employees over a 20 week period or paid $10,000 in wages in a calendar quarter must cover these workers. In Texas, workers are covered if they employ at least 3 employees for 20 weeks or paid at least $6250 in wages during the calendar quarter. If a farmer fails to qualify then they should submit their application for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA).
Do immigrant workers get state unemployment benefits and DUA?
Workers that provide work authorization when they are working or when they collect benefits can qualify for unemployment benefits and DUA. Those that are not US citizens should provide the necessary documentation that supports their immigration status and the State UI agency should verify the same. Their status is usually verified through a process called Systematic Alien Verification For Entitlement Program by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.